A Custom Cycle Tour Of The Catlins

Rachel Lamb has covered a large portion of New Zealand by bike, including the Tour Aotearoa – the 3000km brevet from Cape Reinga to Bluff. Back in February, she toured the Catlins with Natural High and friends. 

Located in the southeastern corner of the South Island, the Catlins is an area of stunning natural beauty – from magnificent coastal cliffs and long sweeping beaches, to rainforests, hidden waterfalls and rolling farmland. Here, Rachel tells us a bit about her trip.

What was your favourite place?
The whole of the Catlins is a treasure trove for nature lovers with spectacular scenery everywhere. If I had to pick one spot as my favourite it would have to be Curio Bay. We witnessed two spectacular sunrises and were fortunate enough to be there when the conditions were perfect for learning to surf. Before getting on our bikes for the day, we took part in a two-hour surf lesson and while we were out there five Hector’s dolphins joined us. Amazing.

How would you describe the riding?
The riding is generally easy but there are a few hills that you need to go over. The other element that can be a factor is the wind – the Catlins is quite exposed so you can encounter headwinds which add to the challenge.

What do you love most about travelling by bike?
I love to walk but I love to cycle even more as you can go so much further and see so much more.

What types of accommodation did you stay in? Is there anywhere you’d especially recommend?
We stayed in very comfortable accommodation in some lovely spots. The waterside cabins at Pounawea stood out as did our accommodation at Whistling Frog Resort.

What bikes did you use for your tour? Did you feel they were a good fit for your journey and why? 
We used mountain bikes for our trip which were great – there wasn’t a lot of off-road cycling but they were good on the gravel roads.

Anything else you’d like to mention?
There are so many little side trips you can do in the Catlins – walks to waterfalls, lighthouses and old saw milling spots. I would recommend incorporating as much of those into your trip as possible. Curio Bay was just magical and I would highly recommend at least getting in the water there and hopefully swimming with the dolphins. You can also find the petrified forest at Curio Bay which is very interesting.

Rachel’s trip was custom-designed to suit her group. Want to chat about a custom tour of your own? Drop us an email today.

Have a great week,
Steve

Images: Courtesy of Rachel Lamb.


Backcountry Riding Inspiration: Old Ghost Road + Heaphy Track


Want a taste of backcountry riding in New Zealand? Then check out this short film made by Damian Stones and Erik Hall, as they navigate two of the South Island’s most epic trails: the Old Ghost Road and the Heaphy Track.

The intrepid duo decided to combine the two tracks into one mammoth, six-day loop over a couple of beers. To make life more challenging, they rode in mid-winter!

The Old Ghost Road and the Heaphy Track are located in the West Coast region of the South Island. They’re both Grade 4 rides, meaning they’re only suitable for fit, experienced mountain bikers. Careful planning and preparation are essential.

Old Ghost Road
85 kilometres of riding through native forest, open tussock tops and remote valleys. You’ll cross 21 bridges and encounter four “ghost” towns. The trail is typically ridden over two to four days, from Lyell in the south to Seddonville in the north. There are six huts located along the route.

Heaphy Track
A tough, challenging ride that’s open to mountain bikers from 1 May to 30 November each year. The 78km track features numerous swing and suspension bridges, steep slopes and changeable weather conditions. You’ll need to be a competent rider, capable of tackling six hours plus on technical single track. Plan to spend two nights on the track, and carry all your food, clothes, overnight gear and bikes tools.

And they’ll be yet another reason to haul your mountain bike to the the West Coast from 1 December 2019 when the Paparoa Track opens. Built as a memorial to the 29 men who died in the 2010 Pike River Mine disaster, the track will become New Zealand’s 10th Great Walk and will be open to mountain bikers all year round.

We’ve got great mountain bikes available for hire for any of these rides, or check out our second hand bike sale page.

Have a great week,
Steve


Heads-Up If You’re Seeking A New Bike – We’ve Got Bargains!

Natural High bike sale New ZealandIn the market for a new bike? We might be able to help!

We’ve currently got top-brand mountain, hybrid, touring, road, ebikes and kids bikes available for purchase, as well as cycle accessories like panniers and trailers.

Popular models include:

Specialized Pitch 650b from $400. This entry-level mountain bike features a triple chain ring setup and 27.5″ wheels. It’s a great choice if you’re contemplating hitting up the trails but don’t want to shell out a ton of money on a more advanced model. Also available: Specialized Rockhopper Sport 29. 

Schwinn Sierra. A stylish, comfortable bike for commuting or city cruising. 

Avanti Giro F2. With an alloy frame and carbon fork, this is a lightweight and easy to handle flat bar road bike. 

Surly Long Haul Trucker from $1600. Planning an extended cycle tour of New Zealand? This could be the bike for you. Very limited availability so get in touch to let us know your requirements. We’ve also got panniers, trailers and other accessories available for sale. 

All our bikes are in fantastic condition and have been regularly serviced by our in-house bike mechanics. Take a look on the website, or drop by our Auckland or Christchurch branches to view in person. 

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Just need to show your current bike some extra love? We offer bike servicing at both our branches from as little as $70. Email us to organise a time, or give us a call on 03 982 2966 (Christchurch) or 09 257 4673 (Auckland).


When Did You Last Replace Your Cycle Helmet?

when did you last replace your cycle helmet?It’s one of the most essential pieces of cycle gear you own, but when did you last take a good, hard look at your helmet? 

Most manufacturers recommend that helmets are replaced between three to five years. Lots of different parts of your helmet – like the chin straps and the retention system – can wear out after time. Regardless of wear, if you’ve crashed while wearing your helmet, replace it immediately. And any physical damage also means that your helmet won’t be able to do its job, so inspect it closely for cracks or dents. 

The fit of your helmet plays a big part in its effectiveness. As a general rule the helmet should rest flat on the top of your head and sit level. Make sure the strap splitters rest just under each ear and the chin strap isn’t too loose. 

If you notice any damage, or your helmet is no longer fitting you comfortably, it’s time for a replacement. One thing to look out for when scoping out your options are helmets containing MIPS technology. MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System and it’s designed to reduce rotational forces on the brain that can result from certain impacts. The technology has been developed by leading brain surgeons and scientists and could, in the event of a crash, reduce the risk and severity of brain injury.

It’s compulsory to wear a helmet when riding in New Zealand. If you’re hiring a bike from us, we can hook you up with helmet hire or discounted purchase ($50). In both cases, we’ll make sure the helmet is fitting you correctly before you ride out the door.

Have a good week,
Steve


The Best Great Rides – According To The Man Who Mapped Them All

Work stories don’t come better than Gary Patterson’s. A cartographer specialising in cycle tracks, Gary has tackled some of the world’s toughest terrain – from the Jamaican Blue Mountains to the Patagonian Andes – all in the name of work. dun mountain trail

Originally from Wanaka, Gary studied environmental planning and mapping at university, before working with DOC on new walking trails. When he discovered mountain biking, he took a job building trails in Portugal. Mapping mountain bike trails was the logical next step.

After getting “a little disoriented” while riding the Alps 2 Ocean trail, he decided to build an app to help people navigate the New Zealand Cycle Trail.

Six months of research was followed by six months of riding every single one of the Great Rides. Along the way, he took tens of thousands of photos, made several million GPS tracking points and got really, really fit. 

Launched in April 2017, the free app is now an official partner of the New Zealand Cycle Trail.

So, which trails are his favourites? The Old Ghost Road, which traces an old gold-mining route through the Mokihinui River gorge, is his top back country trail. He says it’s well-built and offers plenty of huts along the way, meaning you don’t have to carry a tent or stove. 

Another standout is the 38-km Dun Mountain Trail in Nelson, a scenic loop that can be ridden in a day. 

He’s also a fan of the Twin Coast Trail, which zigzags from the Bay of Islands on the east coast to Hokianga Harbour on the west.

If you’re considering tackling any of the New Zealand Cycle Trail, the Great Rides App can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play. It’s stacked with maps, elevation profiles, trail section descriptions and photos, along with details of trail services such as bike hire, shuttles, food and accommodation.

Don’t forget, we can help with bike hire for the Great Rides, and we also offer guided tours along a number of the trails. 

Have a good week,
Steve


What Will Your Next Adventure Look Like?

queenstown to wanaka road rideOur guided tours are winding down for the season but there are still plenty of ways to ride throughout the winter months. Self-guided tours run all year-round – we supply the route and gear, you decide on the timeframe. Check out your options here.
 
Campervan hire throughout the winter months can often work out cheaper and places are usually quieter. Add bike hire and you’ll be all set to hit the trails along the way. Even better, plan your route around some of the country’s best vineyards – you’ll find several suggestions right here
 
Sitting just to the south of Christchurch, Banks Peninsula offers a whole heap of cycling opportunities, from mellow trails to more challenging terrain. While you’re in the area, check out Christchurch’s cycling scene or push a little further south and discover Dunedin.

And finally, if you’re considering cycle touring but aren’t sure if it’s right for you, have a read of this post which answers some of the questions we get asked the most. 

Have a good week,
Steve


So Many Ways To Cycle Banks Peninsula

Cycle rides in ChristchurchSitting just to the south of Christchurch and overflowing with beautiful bays and picturesque villages, Banks Peninsula is well worth a detour from the city. It’s also crammed full of cycling opportunities. 
 
Self-guided Little River Railtrail
The Little River Railtrail begins in the Christchurch suburb of Hornby and follows the route of a 19th century railway to Little River. Highlights along the way include Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora and its resident birdlife – as many as 98,000 birds can be nesting along its shoreline at any one time.

Several self-guided trips incorporate the trail, from a fast, two-day trip to a four-day jaunt which also introduces you to Diamond Harbour and the Port Hills.

Little River Railtrail Guided Daytrip
Short on time? This guided trip along the Little River Railtrail ends at an award-winning café in Little River. Quiet roads, gentle gradients and beautiful scenery make this a fantastic outing for families and cyclists with little to no riding experience. Read more here >>

3 Day Self-Guided Banks Peninsula Cycle Tour
This tour incorporates a mix of on- and off-road cycling along twisting roads, remote gravel tracks and disused rail trail. For those who relish a challenge, rugged single track also awaits!

There’s plenty to discover as you pedal. The rocky coastline of the peninsula is home to New Zealand’s endangered Hector’s dolphin, penguin colonies and native fur seals. The charming town of Akaroa makes a good lunch or overnight stop, and is Canterbury’s oldest town, founded in 1840 by French settlers.
 
With a little under 5000m of climbing over three days this tour is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s perfect for hill lovers and adventure seekers. Read more here >>

Get in touch to discuss any of these trips. We can also help with bike hire.

Have a good week,
Steve


Cycle The City: Dunedin

Take a spin around Dunedin, where abundant wildlife, stunning scenery and a bustling city are just waiting to be discovered.

Harbour and Peninsula Cycle Trail Network
For picturesque views of the harbour and city, follow the cycle trail which runs from St Leonards on the eastern side of the harbour to the peninsula. (Cycling on the peninsula is a mix of cycle trail and on-road riding.) The going is mostly flat and there are plenty of pitstop opportunities along the way. If you make it all the way to Taiaroa Head, pop into the Royal Albatross Centre to view the only mainland breeding colony of albatross in the world.
 
City to St Clair Beach
Dunedin’s favourite surf beach is a popular hangout spot, with cafes and bars overlooking the ocean. It’s a flat ride to the beach from the city. Take your swimming gear for a dip in the heated salt water pool (open October to March).
 
Signal Hill
Make it to the top of Signal Hill and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views in the city. Various MTB trails crisscross the hill, from Grade 2 to 5. Entrance to the park is through the Logan Park High School car park off Butts Road.
 
Whare Flat
These lesser known MTB trails are best suited to advanced riders. Expect tight, technical riding with plenty of natural and man-made obstacles. They’re located a 15-minute drive from the city.
 
Otago Central Rail Trail
Not officially in Dunedin, but the historic Taieri Gorge Railway will whisk you from the city to Middlemarch, the starting point of the trail. From there, it’s 152 kilometres to Clyde, along mainly flat, off-road trails. Guided options along this classic Great Ride are available – take a look here and here

We can help with bike hire and campervan hire – just send us an email and we’ll get you sorted.

Have a good week,
Steve

Image: Early morning Otago Harbour by Samuel Mann. CC BY 2.0.


Cycle The City: Wellington

cycle the city wellingtonFrom easy-going city cruising to hilly, bush-clad landscapes and coastal trails, Wellington offers plenty of cycling opportunities.

The waterfront
For a scenic city spin, point your bike towards the waterfront. Start at downtown Queen’s Wharf, then follow the cycle path along Frank Kitts Park, Waitangi Park, Oriental Parade and Evans Bay Parade. Stop and admire the numerous artworks and sculptures that dot the route, or fuel up in one of the many cafes, restaurants and bars.

Makara Peak
A popular choice for Wellington mountain bikers, Makara Peak is just 15 minutes from the city and offers 30 km of trails. Some are relatively flat and gentle, while others are more challenging!

Skyline Track
12 kilometres long, but it can be broken down into stages thanks to the many entry and exit points along the route. The track runs from Carmichael Street in Johnsonville and goes across to Makara Saddle. On a clear day, you’ll get stunning views of the Kaikoura Ranges, Malborough Sounds and the Wellington Harbour.

Pencarrow Coast Road
A pleasant 16 kilometre return journey that starts at Eastbourne and ends at the Pencarrow Lighthouse – famous for being the first permanent lighthouse installed in New Zealand. Keep an eye out for coastal wildlife as you pedal – the area is renowned for penguins and other sea creatures

Rimutaka Cycle Trail
115 kilometres in total, the Rimutaku Cycle Trail takes two to three days to complete and passes through the Petone foreshore, Wellington Harbour and Wairarapa coast. Shorter, more manageable sections include:

  • Petone to Maymorn. Starting out in historic Petone, just south of Hutt Valley, this route follows an easy cycling route, running along parkland and through various sealed and gravel paths on the Hutt River Trail.
  • Maymorn to Cross Creek. The second part of the trail eases into the Rimutaka Ranges and includes a mixture of bush tracks and rail trails.

We can help with bike hire for any of these routes – send us an email and we’ll get you sorted.

Have a good week,
Steve

Image: Wellington by Andrea Schaffer. CC BY 2.0.


Book Now For The Best Autumn Riding

best autumn riding nzIt’s officially autumn in New Zealand – the perfect time of year to embark on a cycle tour! Keep reading to see which tours are departing over the next few months…

The West Coast of the South Island is a must-ride destination for any cyclist and several autumn tours will let you experience its thrilling twists and turns. Cross the Alps twice on the 10 Day West Coast Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown which departs 26 March. If you’re pressed for time, take a look at the 6 Day West Coast Queenstown to Christchurch Cycle which leaves the depot on 12 March. 

From the pristine beauty of the Marlborough Sounds to the crashing coastline of the West Coast, the 7 Day Nelson Lakes Road tour will introduce you to the upper South Island’s most scenic highlights. This tour departs Picton on 20 March.

Temperatures are still in the high twenties at the top of the country, where sandy white beaches, sub-tropical forests and ancient volcanic headlands await. The 9 Day Northland Cycle includes stops at Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of New Zealand, and the magical Bay of Islands. 7 April departure is guaranteed!

More of a trail rider? The 5 Day West Coast Wilderness Trail tour has a 25 March departure date. Cycle through dense rainforests, glacial rivers, lakes and wetlands and finish up with a ride on the TranzAlpine railway, one of the top ten train journeys in the world.

The 6 Day Alps to Ocean Cycle tour has guaranteed departures right through autumn. This is the longest continuous ride in New Zealand, and descends over 2000 ft from the lofty heights of Mount Cook to the coastal town of Oamaru. Along the way experience stunning alpine scenery, golden tussock land, and rejuvenating hot pools.

All these tours are fully-guided and include all accommodation, most meals and daily luggage transfer. You’ll also have the luxury of being able to hop aboard the support vehicle should you feel like a breather at any point.

Get in touch today to check availability.

Have a good week,

Steve